Some additional information about my experience with MuseScore

A MuseScore advocate, Marc Sabatella, e-mailed me this afternoon about my previous post, and had a number of good points to make.  I’ll share those in a moment.

Two things are excessively true as I consider MuseScore:

1) I am a novice at using the program, as I admitted in the last post.
2) Apparently MuseScore is more based upon the operation of Sibelius than Finale.  As I’m a Finale user, it would make sense that I would struggle with aspects of MuseScore that Sibelius users would find as natural operations.

I’ve asked Mr. Sabatella if I could repost his comments, and he has graciously allowed me to do so, and even to edit as necessary.  So let me get to his comments:

  1. It is not worth trying to convince someone that MuseScore is better than Finale.  It is very clearly not as powerful.  And a number of things *are* harder to do in MuseScore than in Finale – although the reverse is just as surely true.  Overall, if you have particularly complex requirements, Finale will absolutely suit your needs better.  But as someone with around 15 years of experience with Finale prior to switching to MuseScore, I can attest that “many” if not “most” scores can be created just as easily with MuseScore.  Which is to say, I think your overall impression is very strongly affected by your general unfamiliarity with MuseScore (Note: absolutely accurate conclusion).
  2. Ties: you definitely can and should enter those while still in note entry mode, and yes, pressing “+” *does* enter another note – isn’t that exactly what a tie is?  What else would you tie to but another note?  So really, not having to explicitly type the note is meant to save effort.  I’m not sure why you abandoned that.  Perhaps you didn’t realize you simply need to select the length of the note you wish you added before pressing “+”, so you were finding the note added was of the length you wanted.  This is an area where MuseScore – and, apparently from your comment, Notion – works just like Sibelius.  Enter first note, select duration of second note, press “+”.  It’s quite efficient.  Except that in MuseScore, tying entire chords (as opposed to single notes) currently has to be done the way you describe (leave note entry mode, select first chord, hit “+”).  This has been a common complaint and hopefully that will be addressed soon.  As an aside – one great thing about MuseScore is how responsive the developers tend to be – and being open source, how many different people have contributed fixes and features on their own. (Note: I didn’t intuitively understand that you would enter the number of the next tied note before adding a “+.”  I understand the concept now).
  3. Slurs: these are actually easier to do while not in note entry mode.  Just select the notes you want slurred together and press S.  Slur instantly appears and covers the selected notes.  You can also just click a note then press right arrow to extend it note by note.  I’m guessing you were trying to do it via mouse, which is indeed not effective (Note: Yes, I was trying to do so with the trackpad).
  4. Deleting notes – it isn’t clear exactly what you mean here, but editing measures definitely does not require starting from scratch.  If by deleting a note you simply mean replacing it with a rest, so all other notes remain in the same time positions they were already in – then Delete does that.  If your keyboard has a true Delete key, that is.  I gather most Macs don’t – the key that Apple labels Del is actually a Backspace key.  Which is why you need to press Cmd-Del to get Delete.  Not sure why Apple persists in doing this.  Anyhow, you can customize most shortcuts in MuseScore (Edit / Preferences / Shortcuts), but I’ve never tried using this to map Delete to Backspace on a Mac, so I don’t know how well that works.  It is possible you didn’t really mean you wanted to replace a note with a rest, but that you actually meant, you wanted the note to go away and have some number of notes from that point forward (the next note only? everything to the end of the measure? to the next rest? to the end of the piece?) to slide to the left to take its place.  Since this is really about moving notes from one time position to another, MuseScore – just like Sibelius – accomplishes this by cut and paste.  Deleting a note leaves all other notes right where they were – in the words, the note is replaced by a rest.  If you wish to slide some number of other notes to the left, simply select them, cut, click the new desired location, and paste.  You are thus in control of how many notes are affected.  This always surprises Finale users at first, but again, to Sibelius users, it is second nature.  Having extensive experience with both methods, I can attest it really is six of one, half dozen of the other – just two *different* ways of working, and within a week or two, one can completely readjust.  But here is another area where some motivated Finale fan may well decide to go in and add a more Finale-like “delete and then automatically slide a certainly number of subsequent notes to the left” command (Note: indeed, I was using backspace or even Command+X to try to delete a note inside a measure.  I never considered Command+Backspace.  I’ll have to look into the customization of keys on MuseScore).
  5. Sounds – MuseScore does not have anything remotely like Garritan, true.  Nor anything like “Human Playback”.  MuseScore is limited in its ability to play dynamic changes like crescendo, gradual tempo changes like ritardando, certain articulations like slurs, etc.  However, you *can* definitely improve on the default sounds considerably by installing any of a number of freely available (as well as commercial) Soundfonts.  The process is described in the MuseScore Handbook (the online help), and there are even links to a handful of popular alternatives.  The free FluidR3 Soundfont liked to in the Handbook is a very big improvement over the default.  So while playback will still be behind Finale, you can definitely get results a lot better than you were hearing (Note: I think that part of MuseScore’s appeal is that it is packaged as a complete unit, unlike many other open source software packages.  I think a better “soundfont” should be added to the package…as a trainer of other technology users, I am constantly reminded that the majority of people in the world are not geeks–this is even true in music.  So anything that can be added that is a “key feature” of the paid programs should be simply embedded in the larger download–whether as a pre-installed plug-in, or as a feature).
  6. Regarding voices: I’m not sure exactly what you were trying to do or doing incorrectly, but again, I suspect your unfamiliarity with the program is probably getting in your way.  Generally, switching from one voice to another while in note entry mode moves the cursor to the next location at which a note can be entered.  If there is nothing in the measure in that voice already, that means the beginning of the measure.  If there are already two beats worth of notes in that voice, that means the cursor will go to beat three.  A common mistake made by newcomers to MuseScore is to switch voices *before* going to note entry mode, and perhaps that was what you were trying.  This generally doesn’t produce the results you might have been expecting.  So maybe that was the source of your confusion (Note: I’m not quite sure of what was happening here.  I’m sure that I tried to get to the second voice while not in the “N” mode.  And when I was in voice 2, I expected to simply start at the beginning of the measure, but that clearly isn’t the case.  This again sounds like a Sibelius function, and is something I need to think through and play with a bit more).
  7. Left click does not just move the score – only a left click where there is no element.  Left click on a score element selects it; double click puts it in Edit mode.  This is, again, similar to Sibelius and will thus seem “intuitive” (read: “familiar”) to a very large number of users, even though Finale users find some of this surprising at first.  It’s another case where after a week or two, you come to realize it’s at least as effective and you get on with life.  After that period of adjustment, I found I slightly preferred the MuseScore/Sibelius, in fact, as it makes the most common and less invasive operations (moving the score, selecting) easy while making the less common and more invasive operations (editing) require an additional click (Note: One of Finale’s more endearing features in the recent past has been that you can left click on anything to start editing it.  When I clicked on a lot of things in MuseScore, the page simply moved around on me…and the review from PC Magazine had the same experience.  Again, I need more experience here).
  8. Copy & paste of lyrics – really, any “batch” lyric editing – is indeed a limitation in MuseScore.  Add the inability to easily have separate above staff and below staff lyrics (you can do this by manually dragging things around only) and you find two-staff SATB or similar scores to be not MuseScore’s strong suit (Note: Finally, something that I experienced that is actually a shortcoming of MuseScore, and not related to my lack of experience with Sibelius note entry).
  9. Explode and implode are partially available via a plugin (that I wrote); you can install it along with a host of others from musescore.org.  The plugin framework is limited enough, though, that the explode/implode facility is nowhere near as useful as in Finale (Note: This is another Finale feature I use that isn’t a native feature in MuseScore…at least MuseScore 1.3).
  10. A shortcut to change enharmonic spelling has been implemented for 2.0, as has a continuous view.  Also linked parts, and a much better text styling system.  These were the main things I personally miss from Finale, so I am  very much looking forward to in MuseScore 2.0 (Note: Perhaps it is just choral music, but I find the need for enharmonic spellings all the time–regardless of the program I am using.  This will be a good feature in MuseScore 2.0).
  11. MuseScore is not better than Finale – that’s pretty ludicrous.  But I do think many of the issues you reported seeing were largely the result of your unfamiliarity with the program – and expectations formed by Finale.  MuseScore really is perfectly capable of doing many of the things you had trouble with, and doing them quite simply once you get the hang of it.  I can honestly say I am just as efficient with MuseScore as I was with Finale for most tasks – lead sheets with or without lyrics, piano music, small ensemble pieces, big band and orchestra arrangements.  Only vocal arrangements seem noticeably more awkward to me at this point (Note: And, of course, vocal arrangements are what I am working with a majority of the time).

So…there you have it…a number of thoughts from a MuseScore user that will certainly help me the next time I try to work with a score in MuseScore.  I share them on the blog because I think they are good points, and they may also help some new users with MuseScore.  I understand that people love the program, and there are MuseScore experts out there who can truly make the program “dance.”  Even with my Finale-bias, I’d still say that Notion seems to be more intuitive than MuseScore  I’d still say that Finale is a better overall program than MuseScore (Remember that some tweets about MuseScore being “better than Finale” started this whole thought process for me).  But as I mentioned in my last post, you certainly can use MuseScore to create advanced scores.  And honestly, for an open-source program, it works incredibly well.

MuseScore 2.0 is well into the development phase, and will have new features that very well might bring it up to par with Sibelius (if it is ever developed further than version 7) and Finale.  As I said in my last post, I’d encourage you to download MuseScore to examine the program for yourself…and to donate to the cause if you like the program.

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Posted on March 29, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Some additional information about my experience with MuseScore.

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